New beach traffic plan eliminates two bottlenecks [podcast]

April 19, 2017

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has studied the traffic on Pensacola Beach for seven years. Two engineering firms have examined the issues and identified the same two bottlenecks, according to Pensacola Beach developer Robert Rinke.

“One bottleneck is the toll,” Rinke said yesterday on “Pensacola Speaks.” He believes the county made the right decision to install the SunPass system that allows cars to come on the Santa Rosa Island with stopping to pay a toll.

He said, “They spent $2 million on those electronics to put that SunPass in. Now they don’t have to turn them all to SunPass. They can get some people a way to get through with a dollar initially until that ultimately will back up, but there’s a whole education process. They’ll do that slowly and educate and doing the right things.”

The second bottleneck is the only traffic light on Pensacola Beach.

“Both engineers said the traffic light has to go or you’re backing up traffic every weekend in the spring and the summer,’ said Rinke.

Five years ago, the engineers proposed building a flyover that traveled east and west and took the vehicles above the pedestrians.

“In general, people didn’t like it,” Rinke told Inweekly. “That was $70 million, and it was too much.”

He believes the latest proposal is a much better plan and is less expensive and more aesthetically pleasing. The plan has two roundabouts, four pedestrian underpasses, and no traffic lights.

“You bring people onto the beach. They go east. If they’re going to go east they get out of the core. They go west. If they’re going to go west they get out of the core. Now you’re dealing with just the people that want to be in the core,” said Rinke.

The plan creates a “pedestrian-centric Pensacola Beach, not a car-centric Pensacola Beach.” The price tag is $22 million, which Rinke and others propose would be paid with local option sales tax (LOST) dollars generated on Pensacola.

“We’ve generated $509 million over the last 10 years of LOST, and the beach only got $4 million,” said Rinke. “We’re proposing that we just take the share of LOST that we generate on the beach, bond that for 10 years, and pay for the whole infrastructure project with LOST that’s meant for infrastructure only.”

The traffic plan will be presented to the BCC on Tuesday, April 25 at its committee of the whole.

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  • Seeing it clear April 21, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Outside of the traffic engineers and the county commission members, and after having attended some of the repetitive “town halls”, it’s tough to find ANYONE who thinks these “solutions” can possibly work. Tunnels for pedestrians under Via Deluna? Really?!? The studies clearly show that roundabouts do not work in extremely high traffic volumes (such as Pensacola Beach peak volume), that they are significantly more dangerous for pedestrians, and for bicycle riders they are even more dangerous. The traffic engineers wouldn’t even respond to these studies other than to point to the “simulation” video saying, “look! the cars go through just fine.”

    The real kicker reveal at one of the meetings was the idea that, if they are wrong (and the traffic engineers concede that they could be wrong), the cost to fix it, or put it back is huge. Tinkering with $30 miliion that could go horribly wrong seems ill advised. And while they tinker…residents and visitors will sit in slower traffic due to endless construction.

    This problem could be easily solved with some active traffic management on the peak traffic days. But don’t let beach residents have a say, they only see how those roads and intersections work EVERYDAY.

    Someone ought to address the poor management and spending on the brick road in front of Portofino. Again, ask a local about how well that was going to turn out….. Already you have bricks buckling and setting, bricks cracking, curbing standing up from the brick bed creating hazards for bike riders – riding a bike through here is close to requiring a mountain bike it is so rough and bumpy. Let alone the two pinch points for traffic flow that won’t allow a bike and car through the road at the same time. Does it slow traffic? Sure. But, at this rate it would have saved them money by just creating a gravel road to begin with – because that is what it is effectively becoming.

    And now, think about if we want the same folks who thought a brick road in front of Portofino deciding what should work for Pensacola Beach’s only critical intersection.